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Senior Correspondent

"I was ahead in the slalom. But in the second run, everyone fell on a dangerous spot. I was beaten by a woman who got up faster than I did. I learned that people fall down, winners get up and gold medal winners just get up faster." — Bonnie St. John

As the 2012 Summer Olympics begin, we universally become mesmerized. That elite athletes can still come together from the far reaches of this chaotic and contentious old world is in and of itself inspirational to most of us.

I especially appreciate those performers who have overcome severe physical challenges to compete. I recently read about Bonnie St. John who had her leg amputated as a 5-year-old child due to a bone disorder. She ended up being the first African American to win Olympic medals in ski racing. She won the silver and two bronze medals in downhill skiing at the 1984 Paralympics in Austria.

Bonnie graduated with honors from Harvard University and became a Rhodes scholar. She was appointed to the White House National Economic Council under President Clinton.

Bonnie often visits hospital patients and gives talks to people who are facing extreme obstacles. She once met a mother whose 13-year-old child had experienced severe burn injuries. The mother pressed Bonnie to tell her, "Will my child ever live a normal life?" Expecting Bonnie to reply, "Of course he will," instead Bonnie said "No! He should aim higher."

There was a time when Bonnie desperately wanted to be normal. She just wished she could be like everyone else. But, once she stopped trying to cover up her artificial titanium leg, she began to realize that being normal is highly overrated.

I fractured my pelvis right after my sweet sixteenth. I was embarrassed to have broken such a personal bone. I was on crutches and had to have help doing some pretty basic things. I remember being envious of every one of my classmates and wondering if they had any idea just how lucky they were to be so mobile and independent. I concluded that they could not possibly know how it felt to be so utterly dependent and restricted. Yep, might as well have been majoring in drama. I mostly remember just wanting to be normal again, and even striking a deal with my maker. In due time my maker came through and I promptly forgot about my part of the bargain. 

I imagine most of us have had those times when we have felt different or abnormal in some way for any number of reasons. Some valid, like Bonnie's, and others for lesser reasons, like mine.

Bonnie has chosen to dedicate a major chunk of her life to being joyful and bringing joy to others. I understand that Bonnie not only keeps a "to-do" list but also maintains a "to-feel" list. She apparently chooses her feelings irrespective of circumstances. Her stellar accomplishments are truly impressive and illustrate what one can do when they get over just wanting things to be normal in their life.  

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